Los Angeles immigration officials detained and separated a family from Afghanistan who have legal U.S. visas


Some immigration officials at airports across the United States are no longer operating with even a modicum of rationality and constraint.

In the latest appalling incident, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents at Los Angeles International Airport detained a husband and wife from Afghanistan on Thursday, along with their three children aged 6­‑8. There appears to have been no justification for detention of the family, whose names are being withheld out of concern for their safety.

Also, Afghanistan isn’t even on the list of Muslim-majority countries whose people President Donald Trump is trying to ban.

The New York Times first reported the story:

An Afghan family of five that had received approval to move to the United States based on the father’s work for the American government has been detained for more than two days after flying into Los Angeles International Airport, a legal advocacy group said in court documents filed on Saturday.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the father worked for the U.S. government in Afghanistan, exposing his family to a “serious threat.” After extensive vetting by the government, the entire family received special immigration visas. With those visas in hand, they were en route to their new home in Seattle when they were detained in Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Times noted:

The process for obtaining those visas involves intensive vetting, including interviews, security checks, medical examinations and fingerprints—as well as a finding that the applicant has experienced a serious threat because of their work with the U.S. government, according to the petition.

After being held for two days at LAX, the father was transferred to a detention center in Orange County. His wife and children were taken to a different detention center, and it took an emergency court order to block them from being transferred to a family detention center in Texas, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Beyond saying officials would comply with the judge’s order, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman would not identify the reason for the family’s detention.

According to The New York Times, not even Washington State Senator Patty Murray, who represents the area where the family was supposed to live, could get a straight answer out of the Department of Homeland Security.

“I’ve never, ever heard of this happening,” Becca Heller, director of the International Refugee Assistance Project, told The New York Times. “They go through so many layers of security clearance, including one right before they get on the plane.”

“It shocks the conscience,” Talia Inlender, senior staff attorney with Public Counsel, told The Los Angeles Times. “These are the people we should be putting out the welcome mat for. They’re putting their own lives and families at risk, and instead of providing them that welcome mat we are detaining them.”

A hearing on the family’s situation is scheduled for Monday.

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